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Protect your spine (and your kids) with the right backpack

School children

Don’t overload those school backpacks!

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are 7,000 to 8,000 backpack-related injuries per year. Given that here in Canada, our habits aren’t much different than south of the border, the rate of injury likely isn’t much different.

Of course, reported injuries that can be directly attributed to a backpack only tell part of the story.

Wearing a backpack the wrong way, or carrying around too much weight over a prolonged period of time can contribute to problems with posture, neck and back pain, and other issues we regularly seek to correct through Chiropractic care.

How can you make sure your backpack is properly fitted?

It doesn’t matter if you are a child carrying books and lunch to school or an adult out for a hike – the same points apply.

  1. Pick a backpack that is sized proportional to your body. It should fit between your shoulders.
  2. Consider how heavy it is empty. Some are made with lighter materials than others.
  3. Shoulder straps should be padded and not less than about two inches, or five cm, wide.
  4. There are two shoulder straps for a reason – wear both. When you sling the backpack over one shoulder, you are putting strain on your spine and muscles, because they have to compensate for that twist to one side with every step.
  5. A hip/waist strap and a chest strap provide additional support. Having both is ideal, but a waist strap is a must.
  6. The interior should be divided into compartments, so that items and weight can be distributed evenly. Bigger, heavier items should be close to your body.
  7. The total weight of your loaded backpack should not exceed 15 per cent of your body weight. But this is only a rule of thumb that depends on your health and fitness level. For example, a 10-year-old child who weighs around 50 or 60 lbs (22 to 27 kilos) shouldn’t be carrying around more than 7.5 to nine lbs (3.5 to 4 kilos) in total weight.

A change of habit now can save you pain and injury down the road.

Here’s a helpful video we’ve created on choosing and wearing a backpack.

Did you find this information useful?

I hope you did. Please share it with your friends. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where we regularly post on other health-related topics. Our website also has great information about Chiropractic care and other health-related topics, such as selecting the proper pillow for your sleeping habits.

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